CEOs can inspire culture change

With key performance indicators taking over the housing sector, as the CEO of your organisation, what are your top three priorities? How far down the list would you place “community/resident engagement?”

darwin and tracey

I have always wondered on who led the campaign in each housing association/ALMO of championing the community/ resident engagement.

As the CEO, in my opinion, you have a duty to lead by example, set the organisational culture and the whole team will follow suit.

In 2008, I founded an award winning youth empowerment charity, which focused on deterring young people aged 8-19 years old from street crime, whist promoting personal development initiatives.

With support and guidance I focused on pioneering Barnet Homes community engagement strategy.

With eight years of continuous engagement within an evolving community, our partnership workings focused on strengthening residents’ engagement, increasing residents’ participation during consultations on regeneration projects, facilitating focus groups, tackling anti- social behaviour, back to work initiatives and community fun days.

The success of this partnership contributed to my work being recognised by the National Housing Association in 2015, where I represented Nutmeg Community and Barnet Homes as a top five finalist in the 24housing Young leaders Challenge, delivering a presentation on housing that young people need, in front of 600-700 delegates.

Alongside this my work with the charity and Barnet Homes allowed me to receive local and national recognition, as well as endorsements from Her Majesty The Queen, Lord Sebastian Coe, the Rt Hon David Cameron and Boris Johnson.

Would you be surprised if I told you that none of these achievements would have occurred if it wasn’t for the support, guidance and mentorship of the CEOs at Barnet Homes and its staff?

I have had the pleasure of working with Tracey Lees once the CEO of Barnet Homes and now CEO of Wandle Housing Association.  

Tracey in 2009, just a year into her new role, met up with myself and numerous residents of the Grahame Park Estate, London Borough of Barnet’s largest housing estate, whilst also falling within London’s 10% most deprived for income and 10% most deprived for employment nationally.

Tracey discussed in a residents meeting the numerous ways that Barnet Homes could support those whom wanted to get back into work, volunteering or set up a business.

I alongside other residents took up this opportunity, I set up the youth charity with two other residents and received people management training, back office management, safeguarding and volunteering policies.

Barnet Homes also provided us with office space within there office.

After five years working alongside Tracey, she moved on to another opportunity, now with a new CEO, I didn’t know if we would continue receiving the same support.

Much to my surprise, the new CEO, Troy Henshall was just as passionate and enthusiastic about community/resident engagement.

In many cases, its difficult to ascertain if the culture would remain the same, but once again we had a CEO who was just as embedded into the local community as the previous CEO.

Troy helped the charity develop income-generating strategies and provided mentoring to residents whom wanted such support.

Despite supporting Tottenham Hotspur, he became a familiar face in the community, someone residents felt comfortable talking too and knew, they would be heard.

I am only one of many case studies that attribute in part their success to the positive engagement with their housing association CEO.

Sharing this story, hopefully gives you a small insight on what residents can achieve, when given the right resources to progress in life and more importantly, how far a CEO’s passion and dedication for engagement can inspire residents to feel valued and empowered to go make a change in their community.